Mah Jong

by Dilantha Gunawardana

They say some words
Evoke fear, even usher in agony
A word like “Jong”, tyrannical
And seemingly impossible to abandon or forget
Yet in that same name or word
Rests the implicit harmony of a board-game
Where there are trimeric suits
And honor tiles in dragons and winds
Amidst bonanzas of flowers and seasons
Where hands are picked by the perfect odds of clement fate

And in this classical oriental game
Everyone scores a set of points
– Mere namesakes for fraternal life –
Where a strain of lush peace grows as a thicket of yellow bamboo
Or a branch saturated with cherry blossoms.
We are all players on a game-board
Given a hand of suits, honors and bonanzas
– Our own regularities, pedigrees and talents –
Determining peasant and king
Horse-drawn carriages and Audi limousines
Mudbrick homes and imperial palaces
When what matters is not the hand that was served
But how you played the game – With a sparrow’s lust for life –
Hoping for an edition of serendipity
As a member of the Joy-Luck Club…..

And in that street game
You learn to scavenge tiles and make windfalls
Not to merely shout out “Mah Jong”
But to articulate one word “Eureka”
Gazing at one beautiful creature
Completing your hand.


Editor’s Note on Mah Jong:

Mah Jong is not Dilantha Gunawardana’s first work to appear in Eastlit. His previous published pieces are:

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